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Men Belly Dancing?

Written by Jennifer Strailey

Belly dance may be a traditional dance for women, but it's also a great workout; a fact that more and more men are now discovering.

Dolphina is one woman who's changing the pace of belly dancing. As a Los Angeles dance instructor Dolphina's fitness program is no lounge act. She teaches belly dancing as total fitness for mind, body and spirit.

To maximize your belly dance workout, Dolphina recommends the following:
Be aware of your body with every movement.
Push out and pull in the abdominals as you rotate your hips.
Do reps of the individual movements.
To work glutes and thighs, take hip circles down to the floor and back up.
Warm-up and cool down by stretching. It lengthens the muscles.

"People are used to the very voluptuous belly dancers, and some may think that those movements cause you to have a big belly," observes Dolphina. Not true, she says. When done with awareness, belly dancing is a muscle-toning, cardio-intensive total body workout with women in mind.

Belly dancing was born as the fertility dance of the gypsies who traveled through Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. A kind of early civilization Lamaze, belly dancing was taught to young girls to ready their muscles for childbirth.

"In some parts of the world, belly dancing is still performed during labor," notes Dolphina. The muscle isolations learned in belly dance allow you to maximize your energy by keeping some parts of your body relaxed while others are contracting.

Despite its reputation as a dance for women and celebration of the feminine form, today's belly dancing is a workout that defies gender boundaries. "It's traditionally a woman's dance; one that is very sexy and feminine in its movements. But it's also about sensuality and fitness-things from which we can all benefit," she says.

Dolphina sees more men in her classes all the time, and finds that "once one man starts taking the class, it opens the door for others." They're almost always glad they came. "Men take my class and they can't believe how much their arms burn-and these are men who are used to lifting weights," she says.

Tight arms and a taut tummy?  Where do I sign up?

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